Your task is not to seek for love

In the dream I am on foot, adrift in a sprawling, unfamiliar city. Winding up and down twisted streets slick with rain, crossing highway overpasses, and trying to navigate bridges and tunnels I hope may lead somewhere. At times I am terrified by the traffic zipping by; alarmed by the lack of space for pedestrians, convinced I will perish. At others, I think I spot a familiar landmark. The lion façade over the entrance to a building reminds me of a Boston tenement I inhabited in college, a convenience store evokes one I frequented during my years in San Francisco; a coffee house storefront resembles a former hangout in Berkeley. But each time I enter these places I am again deceived. Acutely aware I am a stranger here, but driven deeper into the quagmire of my frightened imagination by these false detours.

Growing more and more frantic, I flag down police, cab, and bus drivers, struggling to get my bearings, begging for directions back to my home. They eye me with suspicion and claim to have no idea what I’m talking about. I begin to run amid the thunder of trucks, the wail of sirens, the din of people talking without listening, and awake trembling in my bed in Denver to the bleating of a distant train heading God knows where.

I’ve had versions of this dream before and am aware as my heart rate slowly returns to normal that it reflects the acute doubt I carry that I will ever actually manage to awaken, ever make it home to the eternal comfort of a real Self unbound by this identity that appears to have cost me enduring love and innocence. Against my ego’s better judgment, I opened the big blue book to Chapter 16, IV. The Illusion and the Reality of Love:

“Be not afraid to look upon the special hate relationship, for freedom lies in looking at it. It would be impossible not to know the meaning of love, except for this. For the special love relationship, in which the meaning of love is hidden, is undertaken solely to offset the hate, but not to let it go. Your salvation will rise clearly before your open eyes as you look on this. You cannot limit hate. The special love relationship will not offset it, but will merely drive it underground and out of sight. It is essential to bring it into sight, and to make no attempt to hide it. For it is the attempt to balance hate with love that makes love meaningless to you …”

It struck me as I once more read these words that A Course in Miracles makes no distinctions between what it calls our special love partners—the ones we have chosen to share in our hallucination of safety from the assaults of all those other nut cases out there in a psycho world–versus special hate partners—the ones we have imagined to abuse, attack, misunderstand, deceive, and unfairly treat us. Not only because the former almost always eventually devolves into the latter as impossible-to-sustain, largely-unspoken bargains are broken. But also because both special love and special hate share the same purpose: to obscure our awareness of the unalterable, undifferentiated, one eternal Love we remain (and the impossibility of hate). And to keep us seeking outside ourselves to offset the unconscious inner guilt that lingers in the mind over the belief that we effectively hated God enough to abandon him and hide out in bodies.

The most difficult to apply and accept passages in the Course are those dealing quite bluntly with our special relationships. And yet, the Course came in answer to a plea for help within a combative personal relationship between its Scribe Helen Schucman and her boss at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, Bill Thetford.  We should not underestimate how threatening we find this material. We are not afraid of guilt, but of love. Because if guilt is real, so is the tiny mad idea that I pulled off the celestial crime of separating from my creator and therefore exist as a distinct entity. Whereas, if love is real, I believe I am not because I no longer remember an identity beyond the separated self I see in the mirror.

And so, to prevent us from applying forgiveness ACIM-style to everyone and everything, we cling to the idea of our self-hatred, temporarily relieved by seeing it “out there” in another. Proving ourselves somehow still loveable in the elusive trick mirror of the special love partner’s eyes, or, when the special love partner morphs into the special hate partner, proving the other’s greater guilt in an attempt to exonerate ourselves from God’s retribution for the original “tiny mad idea” that we could divide our one, indivisible Self and had anything to gain from doing so. When, in reality, all seeming external relationships serve the same purpose: preventing us from remembering our only real relationship with God. Only when we consciously choose the Holy (Whole) Spirit in our mind as our inner Teacher can they become instruments of healing, lessons in learning to see everyone and thing “out there” as sharing the same confused split mind, wandering aimlessly in a senseless dream, frantically trying to find their way home just like me.

As the year began, having revisited Chapter 15 in which Jesus invites us to “make this year different by making it all the same,” (relinquishing our hierarchy of illusions and responding kindly in all relationships) a special relationship in my classroom seemed more problematic than ever. Although I practiced forgiveness and returned to inner peace, the seeming external conflict continued and I found myself doubting I could permanently heal my mind about this relationship. But I had forgotten that my only job was to look at my projection without judgment (and my rush to self-judgment without judgmentJ), and to join with the part of my mind that could truly see that no one was guilty here, despite all ego “evidence” to the contrary. Inner healing had nothing to do with external behavior or form. Even if the circumstances of the dream continued, I could accept atonement for myself and feel only compassion for the ego’s fear however it seemed to manifest in my dream.

I am not responsible for another’s behavior or emotions but I am responsible for my reactions, behavior, and emotions. If I feel hurt by something you say or do it’s always because I want to preserve my special suffering that at least proves I exist as an individual less guilty than you. But behavior and emotions lie. And I can learn to change my mind by changing my inner teacher from the master of sin, guilt, fear, and separate interests to the master of all-inclusive forgiveness. When I do so I feel a peace that includes everyone and everything, even you and me!

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false. Every illusion is one of fear, whatever form it takes. And the attempt to escape from one illusion into another must fail. If you seek love outside yourself you can be certain that you perceive hatred within, and are afraid of it. Yet peace will never come from the illusion of love, but only from reality.”

There is only one Love and it has nothing to do with imaginary bodies vying for survival, approval, and acquittal in a fantasy world. And so, this year, I seek once more to include everyone and thing in my forgiveness practice; even the ones I have imagined to be especially difficult. Regardless of what the body’s bogus senses report, I strive to admit I am always lost in an unfamiliar world when I choose the ego as my teacher. I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t know what anything means, and the false self I think I am will never find her way home. But a part of my mind remains ready, willing, and able 24/7 to guide and remind me I am loved, you are loved, he, she and it is loved and at home, in truth, now and forever.

“Turn with me firmly away from all illusions now, and let nothing stand in the way of truth. We will take the last useless journey away from truth together, and then together we go straight to God, in joyous answer to His Call for His completion.”

I will be out of town Thursday through next week and will post as soon as possible when I return.

I am now speaking regularly at ACIM Gather radio, Wednesdays, 5-6 p.m., EST.
ACIM Gather / PalTalk Access Instructions

(Note: Safe Haven is not an A Course in Miracles work. Nonetheless these characters share a deep longing and active seeking for an elusive seeming love that will never fail them, and a sense of true meaning and purpose in an ultimately meaningless world. Their quest is our own, and what ultimately leads us to find a better way of living in this world.)


  1. I’ve just come back to review this post about ‘making this year different by making it all the same’. Such a powerful concept!! Reflecting on this thought quickly brings truth to the illusions of differences based on judgements. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Hi Suzanne:

    Just came back into town to your kind words.

    Yes, making it all the same is such a wonderful and simple (yet, often quite challenging) teaching. A great reminder when we’re once more tempted to put faith in a dream.

    Thank you for sharing the journey!


  3. What a clear and lucid description of how we use ‘special love’ as a diversion to keep us from looking at the ‘special hate’ underneath! It’s a relief to know that neither are true, but we’ll never know that unless we look at both! 🙂

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